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Samaritano v. Seashore Family Services

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 27, 2015



MICHAEL A. SHIPP, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on separate motions to dismiss Plaintiff Jason Samaritano's ("Plaintiff') Complaint by Defendants Seashore Family Services (Seashore), [1] Patrick Roff, Cindy Kelly, Vivian Andersch, and Roberto Fletcher[2] (collectively "Seashore Defendants"), and Defendants State of New Jersey (the "State") and David Arey (collectively "State Defendants"), pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and (9) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF Nos. 3, 7.) Plaintiff opposed both motions (ECF Nos. 6, 9), and Defendants replied. (ECF Nos. 8, 10.) The Court has carefully considered the parties' submissions and decided the matter without oral argument pursuant to Local Civil Rule 78.1. For the reasons stated below, and for other good cause shown, Defendants' motions to dismiss are granted, and Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed with prejudice.

I. Background

This matter arises out of Plaintiff's participation in New Jersey's Drug Court Program. In October 2011, Plaintiff entered the Ocean County Drug Court Program ("Drug Court"). (Compl. ¶ 9, ECF No. 1.) The Drug Court required Plaintiff to attend regular counseling sessions at Seashore's facility. ( Id. ¶¶ 11.) Plaintiff alleges that, in Summer 2012, his counselor at Seashore, Ms. Mary McCauley, sexually harassed him. ( Id. ¶¶ 15-18.) As alleged, the harassment began with repeated text messages containing sexual content and solicitations for sexual favors. ( Id. ¶ 16.) The harassment continued through social media and culminated in a physical altercation when Ms. McCauley allegedly pushed Plaintiff against his car and attempted to kiss him. ( Id. ¶¶ 16-18.) Plaintiff did not give into Ms. McCauley's advances and, at the time, did not report or complain about her behavior. ( Id. ¶¶ 19, 21.) Through his Complaint, Plaintiff does not bring any claims against Ms. McCauley and does not name her as a Defendant. ( See generally Compl.)

Instead, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Kelly, Roff, Andersch, and Fletcher, employees of Seashore, retaliated against Plaintiff for his refusal to engage in sexual relations with Ms. McCauley by refusing to advance Plaintiff to "phase 4" of the Drug Court, by giving him inconsistent reasons for holding him back in "phase 3, " by attempting to have him admit certain information in counseling sessions, and by refusing to provide him with certain medical records. ( Id. ¶¶ 22, 29, 43.) Additionally, Plaintiff alleges harassment by the State of New Jersey. Specifically, in or around July 2013, Plaintiff alleges that he stopped treatment at Seashore and began receiving treatment at a different facility but is still being harassed by the State. ( Id. ¶¶ 52-54.) Plaintiff alleges this harassment took the form of being denied advancements, even after the Drug Court made promises to advance him through the program. ( Id. ¶¶ 53-54.) Plaintiff also alleges that his probation officer, Defendant Arey, joined in the retaliation against him by lying about a warrant for Plaintiff's arrest and falsely telling Plaintiff that he failed a drug test. ( Id. ¶¶ 57, 61.) In addition, Plaintiff alleges that the Drug Court forced him to write a letter of apology to Defendant Fletcher and took away his express court privilege. ( Id. ¶¶ 49, 56.)

Plaintiff's Complaint asserts four causes of action: (1) government intimidation in violation of federal civil rights, 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) sexual harassment in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination; (3) Seashore's Negligence; and (4) the State's Negligence. All Defendants now move to dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint.

II. Legal Standard

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a "defendant bears the burden of showing that no claim has been presented." Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005).

A district court conducts a three-part analysis when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011). "First, the court must tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.'" Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009)). Second, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Once the well-pleaded facts have been identified and the conclusory allegations ignored, a court must determine whether the "facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a plausible claim for relief.'" Id. at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

III. Analysis

A. The State Defendants

Plaintiffs claims for damages against the State of New Jersey and Officer Arey are barred by the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Eleventh Amendment provides that "[t]he judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." U.S. Const. amend. XI. "The Eleventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects a state or state agency from a suit brought in federal court by one of its own citizens regardless of the relief sought, unless Congress specifically abrogates the state's immunity or the state waives its own immunity." Thorpe v. New Jersey, 246 F.Appx. 86, 87 (3d Cir. 2007). The Eleventh Amendment precludes both legal and equitable relief, as well as all claims under § 1983. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100-01 (1984); Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70-71 (1989).

"The Eleventh Amendment may bar a suit even though a state is not named as a party to the action, provided the state is the real party in interest." Walsh v. Port Auth. Trans-Hudson Corp., 813 F.Supp. 1095, 1096 (D.N.J. 1993) (citing Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974)). The state is the real party-in-interest if the named defendant is in fact an "arm of the state." See Chisolm v. McManimon, 275 F.3d 315, 323 (3d Cir. 2001). Judicial personnel acting on behalf of the state are protected by the state's sovereign immunity. See Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425, 429 (1997). "Probation officers are part of the judicial branch of government' and are considered an arm of the court.'" Otero v. Cnty. of Monmouth, No. 06-3435, 2007 WL 1656851, at *3 (D.N.J. June 5, 2007) (citing In Re P.L., 186 N.J. 368 (2006)); see also Beckett v. Vega, 2006 WL 1320043, at *3 (D.N.J. May 11, 2006).

Here, the Complaint in this matter does not expressly identify the capacity in which Plaintiff is suing Defendant Arey. Plaintiff, however, clearly identifies Defendant Arey in the Complaint as "a probation officer in Drug Court and an employee of the State." (Compl. ¶ 5.) Furthermore, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Arey violated his rights by actions taken in Defendant Arey's official capacity, by informing him of drug test results and arrest warrants. (Compl. ¶¶ 25, 57, 61.) In addition, it is clear that any damage ...

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